Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will have realized that I have a strong geeky side.
My first PDA was a Psion organizer which I bought in 1986. And I owned a Magellan GPS in 1996 – that was when you put in your destination as coordinates and all it would tell you is “Its 2.3 miles in that direction”
So it was with great delight that on my birthday I unwrapped a DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter.
This awesome little machine has a lot going for it. GPS positioning allows it to stop and hover if you take your fingers off of the controls, and if you lose connectivity it will fly back to where it started from and land itself.
It also has a small 720P camera that can record videos and even let the operator to see what the camera sees in real time on their phone or tablet via a wi-fi connection.
It’s huge fun seeing video of yourself peering up and views of nearby landmarks from an aerial viewpoint, but this camera seems to be the thing that causes most people trouble.
I have to admit I was a little surprised the first time I was waxing lyrical about my newest hobby only to have someone tell me they thought it was a creepy. But several people have made similar comments and I think people are really concerned that people are going to start using these things as a new means of spying on them or peeping into their homes.
I think this surprised partly me because nothing was further from my mind. I had visions of flying this over the local pond, capturing some high altitude shots of my house etc.
I have already heard many people asking for additional regulation to stop that sort of behavior, and other people talking about shooting drones out of the sky if they see them.
As a person with a strong belief in people’s right to privacy I’m left in a bit of a quandary.
One of the things that often happens in these types of situations is that new laws and regulations appear that don’t actually add to protection, but do make life difficult for people trying to have some honest fun or innovate in a new direction.
Let’s be clear here. It is already illegal to peek into people’s bedrooms and it doesn’t matter whether it is done with a drone, a high powered telescope or a ladder.
But I also see trouble looming. What happens when someone loses control of a drone and it damages a person or property? What about if a drone distracts a driver and causes a crash?
And what about the benefits of having drones? They have already been used to find missing children and stranded hikers and to survey damage in dangerous areas.
All of the above have already happened.
Clearly this is a space that is going to evolve rapidly in the next few years and, for the moment, the technology is far outpacing the regulation. And perhaps that is a good thing. Let’s remember that many people’s impression of the early internet was that it was a place to watch porn. Knee-jerk regulations at that time could have easily stifled the greatest engine of innovation ever created.
It seems to me that a little patience is needed to see where this goes and allow people to work the kinks out on their own before we start adding new laws to the books.
In the mean time…here’s a short video…no bedroom shots included.